Previous generations used to eat locally out of necessity. Without options like flash-freezing and worldwide export services, communities had to rely on local farms for all of their meals. In many ways, this was beneficial. People ate fresh, seasonal foods that were naturally flavorful and nutritious, and farmers and communities prospered. Not to mention, Mother Earth was in a much better condition.
Of course, today, that has all changed. According to the supermarkets, there is no such thing as "out of season." Berries in the middle of February? Why not? Seafood flown in from Japan? Sure. While it all adds up to appetizing and varied meals throughout the year, regardless of the weather, it comes with a price tag--both ethical and financial. It's costly for restaurants (and in turn, diners) to purchase fare from out of state or out of the country, and it also leads to further environmental damage.
In addition to inflated meal costs and climate change, agricultural exportation might also play a role in our ever-expanding waistlines. Most Americans live on a diet that includes processed fare that is neither fresh nor natural. Whole, chemical-free foods are either hard to find or hard to afford, so many Americans fill up on pre-packaged, sodium-heavy junk that has to be covered in butter and oil in order to be edible. No wonder so many people in this country struggle to eat healthfully!
It's time to go back to the days when we ate both locally and intuitively, the days when we turned to the earth for sustenance instead of the frozen section. When you eat fresh, seasonal foods, you trim not only your waistline, but also your grocery bill and your carbon footprint.
At moto restaurant, we have dedicated our efforts to "zero mile gastronomy" for the last several years. Since creating a new software system that allowed our restaurant to go paperless, I turned our old office into a high-tech indoor farm. If "farm" and "high-tech" sounds incongruous, trust me, you haven't seen anything yet...Let's just say this isn't your everyday compost heap! (Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjdzLHOTxj8)
Like our menu, our farm is completely out-of-the-box as well as constantly re-innovated. We began with spinning towers of vegetables that thrived from the nourishment of our very own fermented compost "tea," and we have moved taken things to the next level with a vortex aerator that allows us to grow a remarkable amount of fruits and vegetables, as well as micro-greens. And, it's all happening right where the printer and fax machine used to be! Score one for Mother Earth...and delicious dining.
Urban farming is not only possible, it is crucial. But it can't be like the farming techniques of yore. Today's kids are more likely to play Farmville on Facebook then they are to interact with a actual farm, and in order to make local and sustainable fare a viable option, innovators have to continue finding ways to re-think dining, farming, and the way people eat.
My team at moto restaurant is really proud to be part of the farming future and zero mile gastronomy, and we are working on bringing these urban farming solutions to the public as well. Together, we can change the direction of our planet's future and bring back sustainable agriculture. The best part? We don't have to sacrifice our taste buds in order to do so.